Former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe beat Republican Rep. Ralph Hall in a primary runoff Tuesday night in Texas, becoming the first Republican challenger to unseat an incumbent member of Congress this election year.
The Associated Press called the race for Ratcliffe just after 10 p.m. Eastern time, with Ratcliffe leading Hall 52 percent to 48 percent in Texas’s 4th Congressional District.
In the absence of major policy differences, Hall’s age became a central issue in the campaign. Hall, 91 years old and first elected in 1980, is the oldest member ever to serve in the House. Ratcliffe rarely pointed directly to Hall’s age, but frequently described himself as a “new generation” Republican who was part of the party’s future. He also cast Hall as a career politician and tied him to voters’ disappointment in Congress.
“At 91, Ralph Hall has served admirably,” Ratcliffe said in one TV ad. “But after four decades in Washington, the problems are getting worse, not better.”
Ratcliffe’s own money helped make him the most formidable opponent of Hall’s career. He loaned his campaign $575,300 of his own money to finance the challenge, and Ratcliffe also benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending from groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund, Now or Never PAC, and the Club for Growth, which boosted the challenger and critiqued Hall’s long voting record.
Hall, meanwhile, had overwhelming support from current and former members of Texas’s congressional delegation, including former Rep. Ron Paul. Fellow Republican members helped raise money for Hall with his seat in jeopardy over the last few months.
Ratcliffe forced Hall into a runoff after the March 4 primary, in which the incumbent finished first but failed to reach the 50 percent threshold necessary to win the nomination. Hall received 45 percent of the vote in that election while Ratcliffe received 29 percent, advancing to the head-to-head matchup over four other Republican candidates.